The Game-Losing Play

January 26th, 2022

Bucs DC Todd Bowles

Joe was on the phone earlier with a hardcore Bucs fan who just wants to punch someone he’s still so peeved at the loss to the Rams. Like Joe has written several times, it didn’t have to happen.

If Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would have just followed well-documented data not to blitz Matt Stafford, today’s discussion wouldn’t be about the possibility of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski retiring and Byron Leftwich and Bowles maybe leaving for head coaching jobs.

Of course, that big Rams play to Cooper Kupp to set up Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal was the final dagger. There was nothing about that play that was right, from the guy who hatched the idea to run that defense down to the execution.

Father Dungy has already called out Bowles for even trying that blitz. And Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout and current NFL Network talking head, demonstrated how the play was flawed.

In the video below, you will see that Shaq Barrett wasn’t even lined up for the play. Ndamukong Suh was late as well but he was the only guy who got pressure on Stafford (he blasted him). Jason Pierre-Paul and Devin White got swallowed up by three Rams offensive linemen. Vita Vea got OK pressure but he was so far outside it didn’t matter.

And blitzing corner Sean Murphy-Bunting appeared to be way late with his blitz, though the angle does not show where he started.

It was a flawed play executed poorly that led to an ugly loss. And instead of being geeked for a home NFC championship game, Bucs fans on this gloomy, cold, raw day are wondering what this team is going to look like in a couple of months.


76 Responses to “The Game-Losing Play”

  1. Kevin L Says:

    Lavonte should have blitzed. Just standing there covering no one.

  2. zzbucs Says:

    Jesus H Christ Joe, you are right about the call, you said it in some articles even before the game, we all saw that an congrats for your high Football IQ that is undeniable ….But how many times will you bring it back??? Sounds like a Mantra!!!

    …..Let´s move on……We can´t judge Bowles for one call, judge him for his resume, and is damm good!!!!!

  3. Francisco Guzman Says:

    Not even set. Just ridiculous. Took the ball out of Brady’s hands. I have no doubts we win in OT.

  4. lambeau Says:

    “Matthew has done very good against an all-out blitz all year”–Kelly Stafford

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Secondary was weak all year. Season on the line to make that bad a mistake is pretty unforgivable. Think a Belichick defense would do something that stupid?
    Heartbreaking to lose like that after they come all the way back.

  6. Upstate NY BUC Says:

    This is what happens when you don’t practice… guys looked lost-confused, slipping all over the place. How much money do these guys earn, sad state of affairs!!

  7. Joe Says:

    We can´t judge Bowles for one call, judge him for his resume, and is damm good!!!!!

    Not judging him by one call. Not anti-Bowles but this should not be swept aside or ignored, specifically his entire gameplan that frankly went against all evidence and common sense.

    At least, Joe won’t forget.

  8. Adrnagy Says:

    Will licht wait until JPP , gronk , jensen, brady , suh , etc are ready and heal to make a decision or is licht going to start reloading and figuring out the roster ?

    Arians needs to hold assistant coaches accountable. Like the db coach and special team.

  9. Conte Piscatelli Says:

    So I almost get the premise that the all out blitz would have forced the ball out of Staffords hands quicker if everyone came as planned, and if executed properly that means a short throw. But it would still have required a one on one open field tackle. Watching the replay there, has the pressure come as ordered the ball likely wouldn’t have gone too Kupp but rather the unmarked back in the flat with nothing but green in front of him. Likely the same outcome. Truly a overly risky call with poor execution.

  10. Trey Long Says:

    Inexcusable to lose w such a horrendous coaching mistake. Their best receiver left one on one w a safety????
    Plus Stafford good against blitz.
    As Belichick always says, Players win games and coaches lose em.

  11. Joe Says:

    Will licht wait until JPP , gronk , jensen, brady , suh , etc are ready and heal to make a decision or is licht going to start reloading and figuring out the roster ?

    Depending on who the coaches are — yes, Joe uses the plural form — Joe is confident Licht already knows who he would keep and who he would let walk away. Of course, if a new coach(es) don’t want to work with (insert player names), that would change things.

    As Joe already wrote this morning, if Brady and Gronk retire, Leftwich and Bowles leave and the staff gets cherry-picked, does Arians even want to come back?

    Lot of dominoes could be falling.

  12. Upstate NY BUC Says:

    Agree 100% Joe….

  13. geno711 Says:

    Joe Says:
    January 26th, 2022 at 12:07 pm
    We can´t judge Bowles for one call, judge him for his resume, and is damm good!!!!!
    Not judging him by one call. Not anti-Bowles but this should not be swept aside or ignored, specifically his entire gameplan that frankly went against all evidence and common sense.

    At least, Joe won’t forget.

    Agree fully with this take.

  14. Ash Says:

    Considering the rams were in hurry up and the amount of communication that has to happen on a blitz call it was a dumb call. The bucs where still trying to communicate when the ball was snap that’s why no one was ready definitely on coaching and not realizing the situation you are in.

  15. Adrnagy Says:

    So if brady comes back everything is good for next year. If he doesnt come back .. its a total gut . New scheme offense / defense. New coaches. Everything. Wow.

  16. tampabayallday Says:

    On Bowles… he should be let go

  17. Thomas Edrington Says:

    Would be surprised if Bowles lands a HC job……

    Also, Eric “The Enemy” should get a head coaching gig before Lord Byron

  18. Alanbucsfan Says:

    I still believe there was alot of lack of attention to detail and in-game circumstances leading up to this game.
    You can’t tell me that going on future job interviews and all the distractions that causes didn’t affect the coaches’ attention to detail in preparing for this game.
    I know it’s the lousy way the NFL works regarding coaching vacancies, but I can’t help but think that Bowles and Leftwich fell back on generic “this is what we do” game plans instead of tailoring a game plan for the Rams because they were too distracted with their job prospects.
    And if the players sensed the coaches were distracted, then they were distracted as well.
    The Bucs D is not as bad as they showed in the 1st half.
    All the playoff teams struggled on offense early in their games , except the Rams-
    I agree with Joe Izbitz- the Rams aren’t that great, the Bucs D wasn’t ready for this game and it’s because the coaches were distracted.

  19. Bucsfanman Says:

    No, Bowles should not be judged by one call. However, it was a bad call at the worst time on a national stage.
    His defense is a far cry from that tissue-soft garbage Smitty used to trot out there. But this was an absolute dagger.

  20. IrishTony Says:

    Vic Fangio could get more out of the defensive personnel.

  21. IE Buc Says:

    The coaches blaming the players for not everyone blitzing is ridiculous. Even if LVD had blitzed, he wouldn’t have gotten to Stafford. He had a ridiculous quick release. SMB couldn’t get to him with a free rush. LVD took himself out of the play though. He should have slowed down Cooper or dropped deep.

  22. Aceofaerospace Says:

    As I was told in basic training 40 years ago, “That one oh sh!t erased all your attaboys”. I still can’t believe we gave up that play. Does anyone remember the “prevent the win” defenses we so commonly ran in the 1980’s? Well, welcome back. I won’t get over that one play for decades.

  23. Robert Says:

    should have played prevent and went to OT

  24. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Why is Vea blitzing from the outside again? It’s all coaching, if there was confusion coaches should instructed D to jump offside. Never Why they blitz corners that can’t tackle.

  25. HC Grover Says:

    I think there is a set called ‘Prevent Defense” it prevents losing. Good Grief all those games and pains to get to that point and the to have utter, total, failure. It hurts and there is no excuse.

  26. M dub Says:

    Dumbest call ever, Todd had a major brain fa** Brady would have got it done in ot all they had to do was hold off Stafford for 40 seconds. Worse loss ever. Sorry Tom.

  27. M dub Says:

    Byron was genius to run Lenny outside on 4th and inches. Even I thought it was a qb sneak Bowles probably cost himself a job with his dumb call

  28. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I will be shocked if Bowles lands a head coaching job, after this last game.

  29. captivajim Says:

    “his resume,and dam good ” Really ??

    I guess i’ve not seen that version…does it include his record as Jets HC ??

  30. PassingThru Says:

    @M dub

    Yes, it was a great play call. The defenders were packed together over the Center, waiting for that inevitable Brady sneak. By going with an outside run, the defenders were both out of position or effectively blocked out by their own teammates.

  31. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Mike Lombardi called out Arians for not coaching and allowing this to happen and not explaining the gravity of the play and also allowing the kickoff to begin with. The great 99 called out the entire defense except Suh and said the entire defense was not ready and then Lavonte with his hands on his hips, just Horrible

  32. SB Says:

    It wasn’t just “ONE PLAY”. We blitzed on 64% of the D snaps!!
    SF has beaten the Rams Twice and they only blitz 18% on average. DUH!!!

  33. '79 Defense Says:

    How times have changed. Funny how Bowles was lauded as a genius for the game plan for the SB last year that worked to perfection.

  34. PanhandleBuc Says:

    All the data was there NOT TO BLITZ! This game came down to poor pressure and very poor protection! The Rams have our number in the playoffs, like the Saints do in the regular season! We need to vindicate that starting next year! On to the 2022 season….

  35. Christopher Schiefen Says:

    Vita rushing…from the outside. WTF.

  36. gotbbucs Says:

    This is the same exact way that we got the TD before halftime against the Packers in last year’s NFC championship game.
    Everybody was sitting on their heals waiting for the underneath throw and they went over the top.

  37. gotbbucs Says:

    SOB that was a horrible play to call in that scenario. Cooper Kupp singled up on a safety. No contest.

  38. cmurda Says:

    Fair or not. I don’t care what anyone says. I am anti-Bowles and always have been. His scheme is fine. It’s great sometimes. It works against some teams. It doesn’t against others. By far his best coached game was the most important. I will acknowledge that. Against the Chiefs in SB55 he ran a simple cover 2 (Tampa 2) because it was wise to contain Tyreek and then trust LVD to keep Kelce in check. It wasn’t his typical base defense which made it even more successful and fooled the Chiefs. That was solid. The problem with Bowles defense and even in this last game against the Rams wasn’t even the terrible call and just to be clear it was an ignorantly bad call. No, the worst part as I have said before is the fact that we had 2 significant defensive breakdowns which is all coaching. 3rd and 20 and Cooper has 1 on 1 coverage. Boom, breakdown and first down and points later scored. 3rd and 20 folks. Then, of course a 20 yard play which was bad but not catastrophic at the end only to be followed by an all out blitz in which half of our defense was completely lost. Again, that’s coaching and it is unacceptable. Coaches are going to call good plays and bad plays and after some time to heal, a bad call can be forgiven. Confusion on defense in the 19th game of the season is not forgivable. These defensive breakdowns have happened all year. Either this defense is incredibly complex or Todd is terrible at teaching it. Either way, it’s a Todd Bowles problem.

  39. fern Says:

    everybody a coach
    If Wirfs play we win simple as that stop blaming

  40. Pruritus Ani Says:

    This could be a very exciting or a very depressing offseason. I hope all the bad news lately isn’t a harbinger of things to come.

  41. SlyPirate Says:


    The Bucs scored 3 points in the first half. “The game losing play” never happens if the Bucs score anything in the first half.

    The Bucs loss was more a result of the offense in the first half than the defense on the final play.

  42. Iamabuc Says:

    I believe that those interviews for HC openings have a lot to do with the whole mess. That is why those interviews should be held after a team is eliminated or after the SuperBowl.

  43. Hodad Says:

    Joe I have a better question. If we weren’t lined up before the snap properly, and there was some confusion with the call, why not take a time out? Don’t remember if we had one left, but I’ve seen time outs called for the defense before.

  44. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Slypirate and the D let up 20 dipshat. Irrelevant the score was tie with 28 seconds left, call anything except what he did.

  45. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Hodad, they were out if timeouts but the coaches could yell go offsides before the ball was snapped, then it’s a dead ball.

  46. PassingThru Says:

    Don’t judge Bowles for that terrible game plan, miscommunication, poor execution, and cringe-worthy play calls.

    Accountability is so overrated.

  47. MadMax Says:

    Welp, Leftwhich is gone….maybe he takes Bowles with him, who knows.

  48. CalBucsFan Says:

    From this camera angle, on Suh put pressure on the QB, Shaq and Vita were not only way too wide, but also look to be out of gas too.

    And did anyone even check or bump Cooper in the first 5 yards from scrimmage? Don’t think so, even though it’s not visible in this camera view, he ran unabated and was never touched until tackled. Was that really the way that defensive call is drawn up against an opposing team’s best receiver?

  49. Gman Says:

    People still get that upset about the outcome of a football game? Whoever you were talking to must be a 11 year old little girl. Life is filled with disappointment…get over it.

  50. Mr Bean Says:

    It is not just the last play. They blitzed more often than not despite it not working. What is the point of having a DC and a coach if you cannot make any adjustments?

    The defense is still very good despite the coaching. They allowed pretty much the same number of point as the offense scored 40 seconds before the end. And they played so much more that the other teams defense – the Bucs lost the TOP by nine minutes. That is huge. Also four turnovers. That was huge too. They played their hearts out. Eliminate the TOP advantage (that is on the offense – OL banged up and two of top three receivers out) and eliminate boneheaded insistence on blitzing and the Rams don’t score more than half the points they ended up scoring.

  51. Anonymous Says:

    Would it be okay with you if all three got the head coaching opportunities they deserve or is it one per year in your mind?
    No offense intended just asking…

    Thomas Edrington Says:
    January 26th, 2022 at 12:43 pm
    Would be surprised if Bowles lands a HC job……

    Also, Eric “The Enemy” should get a head coaching gig before Lord Byron

  52. Mike Johnson Says:

    typical Buc nation trying to place the blame of a loss on one person. This team lost the game. And nobody wants to say the Rams were simply better than us.
    how sad.

  53. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you… Rarely are games won or lost solely because of one play or one player. They fact is they showed heroic effort and heart to even be in a position to win but the team with better players on the field won the game.

    SlyPirate Says:
    January 26th, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    The Bucs scored 3 points in the first half. “The game losing play” never happens if the Bucs score anything in the first half.

    The Bucs loss was more a result of the offense in the first half than the defense on the final play.

  54. cmurda Says:


    Exactly. I can’t stand the “well if we would have scored points or done this or that” then we wouldn’t have needed to worry at the end. That is sheer ignorance. Please just acknowledge that you are a casual know nothing fan if you spout that nonsense. If the situation didn’t demand it, we would not have gone for the 4th downs but we had no choice. The fact remains game tied and our D coordinator had his defense all confused while he simultaneously called one of the dumbest defensive calls in the history of defensive calls. He got tons of accolades for our performance in last year’s Superbowl. This comes with the territory. Yes, Mike Johnson. 1 person is to blame,. 1 person. The Rams weren’t better. They were 27-27 better. That’s illogical. Tied with 42 seconds left. Stop disputing the obvious.

  55. Anonymous Says:

    I agree 100% despite what they guy who is always wrong thinks…

    Mike Johnson Says:
    January 26th, 2022 at 6:24 pm
    typical Buc nation trying to place the blame of a loss on one person. This team lost the game. And nobody wants to say the Rams were simply better than us.
    how sad.

  56. BucsBeBack (Artist formally known as: BringBucsBack) Says:

    Kupp caught a 30+ yarder the play before!! The Bucs had 4 players to defend the back end against 4 receivers?!?! That’s one on one coverage when you just needed to kill the clock & keep everything in front of you!! Drop 9, hell drop 11 & take more time off the clock! There were several guys on the defense that didn’t do a solitary thing on that play; they assumed they had the tie! Inexcusable!!!

  57. SB Says:

    Defense completely dropped the ball. Coaches, scheme. players not on their keys,……….Spin it how you want it. Defense caused a shot at the SB

  58. MoHawg Says:

    Just one of many plays (offense and defense) where this sort of inadequacy can be seen. It all started after the 3rd play of the game when the stuff hit the fan, ugh!!!!!!

  59. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Anonymous once again you show you know nothing about the game. When the Bucs were up 24 to 3 against the Bills it was the offenses fault they did score more as the D let them tie the game. Did you expect 40 points against a dline that turned Brady into hamburg due to lack of receivers and a tackle playing with one leg. You made excuses for the D all season due to injuries yet the O has to still score 35 points in order to win. What other team in the NFL expects their offense to score 30 points a game? Try baseball, the game of football is beyond your comprehension.

  60. Pete Says:

    As he’s running by you and you know you’re beat, tackle the guy. If the ball’s not in the air, it’s a 5 yard penalty. Sure, the clock stops but it’s better than the alternative.

  61. lambchop Says:


    This call was poorly executed. Hell, even with the DL being late (except for Suh), if Winfield Jr. kept up with Kupp, none of this would be a talking point. Instead, we’d look at how well defensed the pass was by Winfield Jr. and how great of a push Suh got. Winfield Jr. has shown against the Colts that he can cover, like when he picked off a pass to Pittman Jr. The execution was horrible, not the call.

    How do you think not blitzing Stafford would play out with our CBs? Stafford has also played like $hit against the blitz (49ers game and a few more). It really comes down to the personnel you have on defense. If you got excellent DBs, you can drop into coverage, but we don’t have that elite level talent, at least not at the CB position. So, no you can’t just let Stafford pick you apart by not applying any pressure. I don’t care what kind of QB you are, if your pocket collapses, you’re in deep doo doo if you can’t get time to throw. Also, when his WRs are going for long developing routes, he needs time to throw. You have to apply pressure to disrupt that timing.

    Let’s just say the Rams had a way better OL than our DL. They were able to pick up blitzes, and Stafford was on fire with his accuracy. It’s just one of those things where a perfect storm came together on that last play and really told the story of that whole game. We were always a step behind and a little too late.

    You can’t choose when to accept stats as gospel and at other times call stats for geeks. We just don’t have the players to sit back and cover. Mike Smith proved that.

  62. ChiBuc Says:

    Well I place the blame on 1 person, Bruce Arians! His casual, seemingly uninformed, approach to mgmt, leadership, and coaching has led to these 2 unaccountable DCs who have rolled out the same game plan week after week. Player talent along with veteran pride (and the goat) overcame most teams, but never a team with a better coach ( recall the losses and near losses to lesser talented teams). They were poorly prepared all year and BA never provides more of an answer beyond bravado and bs. Other than Wirf and Winfield, rookies go undeveloped or regress, talent fades (see TEs other than gronk), sh!t they can’t even figure out how to motivate a guy who ran for 900+ yds last year (Rojo, didn’t step our of bounds in college). So while you raspberry TB & BL (which I never liked their playcalling), bear in mind who hired them and doesn’t seem to have a handle on staff or players. That tomato is all juiced out…NEW BLOOD

  63. Joe Says:

    How do you think not blitzing Stafford would play out with our CBs? Stafford has also played like $hit against the blitz

    NextGen Stats documents quite the opposite. Stafford lights up blitzes far more often than he struggles. Yet Bowles chose to ignore this. Read Sunday night’s stories about this with the percentages. Bowles fully ignored what was obvious to anyone with a keyboard. Father Dungy and Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp each thought it was a horrible call.

  64. August 1976 Buc Says:

    3 points in the first 30 min, pretty lame offense. oh yeah that never happened?

    Reality check.

    This was a team beatdown, the Rams owned the Line of Scrimmage in the first half.

    Sorry 27-27 all or not, the first 30 minutes actually does count.
    If it does not, then subtract 20 from the Rams score. Get Real

    The Rams owned the Line of Scrimmage in week 3, and again on Sun.

    The team got their azz beat, bottom line.

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  65. lambchop Says:


    I don’t care what anyone thinks, nobody is talking about how suspect our CBs are. It’s just analysis in hindsight. We have aggressive CBs that only thrive in short passing situations, they are gamblers. They cannot cover a WR group like the Rams. Yea, they can cover a Falcons WR corps, but not when there are multiple threats at WR like the Rams have.

    It boils down to your personnel.

  66. Swampbuc Says:


    More Thorazine.

    I need more Thorazine.

  67. Swampbuc Says:


    More Thorazine.

    I need more Thorazine.

  68. lambchop Says:

    If Winfield Jr. broke that pass up, which is well within his talent level, the blitz wouldn’t matter. That’s not Stafford being a genius against the blitz, it’s our piss poor reaction to Kupp running by Winfield Jr. There was nobody else involved in that play, who blitzed, who could have made a difference on that play. Stafford didn’t throw outside or in the flat, he threw over a Safety that was too shallow and a step late.

    Not having a timeout really hurt the Bucs. The last 2 plays were chaotic.

  69. Listnfrmafar Says:

    August if your theory is correct, then how did the Patriots overcome a 25 pt deficit in the SB against Atlanta? It’s called adjustments, preparation in conditioning, coaching and 60 minutes of football. If the Rams are so big and bad why didn’t they score more in the second half and blow the Bucs out. The score was tie no matter how it happened and who did or didn’t do what doesn’t matter at that time It’s one call that closed the door on that game. Would it really of mattered if the Bucs scored 13 in the first half and 14 in the second?

  70. steele Says:

    The analysis is 100% correct. Total defensive disaster, total breakdown, and two technique-wise PERFECT plays by Kupp that humiliated SMB on the first down, and Winfield on the last one. On top of guys being completely asleep and out of position. How does that make sense?

    And yet the game was almost won anyway.

  71. Buc1987 Says:

    Listnfrmafar…Pats fans are not really welcome here…for a reason.

    You’re a perfect example of it.

    If Brady hangs it up….will you leave JBF?

  72. lambchop Says:

    Also, I think more teams need to practice end of game situations. If Lenny would have fallen at the 1, this game would have went into OT.

    That’s on coaching and Tom Brady. Brady, I’m sure has gone through situations like this in NE. But, I doubt he saw Lenny taking a 4th and 1 at the 9 to the house. But, you just have to be aware of situational football when it’s less than 2 minutes and you’re either going for the tie or a victory. Don’t leave time on the clock.

  73. Augusr 1976 Buc Says:

    It is not a theory, I stated several facts. The Rams owned the Line of Scrimmage. And the offense scored only 3. My whole point is it was team beating, not just offense but defense also as a whole. Team game, and the Rams were the better team on Sunday. 3-20, and then 24-10.
    Like it or not the Bucs got their azz beat so bad in the first half, that a heroic comeback was not enough. to overcome the final score.
    GO BUCS!!!!

  74. captivajim Says:

    Chibuc is right ;; Bucco himself has been enjoying the limelight -rather than doing HIS job

  75. Listnfrmafar Says:

    Lambchop, absolutely not knee at the one. There is no guarantee the Bucs would score. August, Tenn sacked Burrow 9 times, Cincy is moving on. I agree the Bucs got beat up most of the game but as DR mentioned earlier Rams rarely substituted which is why they faltered at the end and if it went into OT, if the Bucs won the toss I believe they had the best chance to win. Bucs1987, you are correct, if Brady & Gronk leave Tampa so will I, there is no need to follow a losing team. If they stay, you got me for one more season. GO BUCS!

  76. Swampbuc Says: